Thursday, December 14, 2017
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Signature Dish: Spicy Chicken Wrap comes together in a jiffy

WHO: Megan Sertzel, 21, of St. Petersburg, a classification specialist at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, a senior at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and wife to Paul.

WHAT: Spicy Chicken Wrap.

ABOUT: Sertzel starts her day when the rest of the world turns out the lights. Working nights while taking college classes means she sometimes stays up for 20 hours straight. Although she loves cooking, she doesn't have a lot of time. That's why she concocted her spicy chicken wrap, a fast meal she can bring to work for her 4 a.m. "lunch."

"I've also made it for dinner. And breakfast, because there's really no distinction anymore. You eat whatever, whenever," she says, laughing at her schedule.

She cooks the chicken at home and chops up the vegetables, while her two dogs and two cats line up at her feet and wait for crumbs. "I tend to drop things so they usually get their little feast from the floor," she says. Then she takes the ingredients to work, puts the wrap together and pops it in the toaster oven for a warm lunch. "It takes less than 5 minutes to assemble, and then I'm good to go," she says.

Two months ago, Sertzel resolved to eat healthier but still be creative with her dishes.

The spicy chicken wrap with melted cheese counts as comfort food that's also good for you. "It's a healthy alternative to a sandwich or a hamburger," she says. "And to me, it's better."

ON THE SIDE: Chips and dip, or for a healthier option, steamed veggies like broccoli and carrots.

TIPS FOR HEALTHY EATING: "If you have a craving for a food . . . instead of eating something sweet, eat some sort of protein like a piece of cheese or some lunch meat," she suggests. But she admits that doesn't always work. If you're craving "ice cream or cheesecake, meat just doesn't cut it!"

WHY COOKING? "Cooking shouldn't be a chore. It should be fun," Sertzel says. One of her earliest memories is baking a cake when she was 5. She forgot the flour, so it crumbled — but it didn't crush her love for creativity in the kitchen. Growing up, rainy days meant a chance to bake sweets with her mom and younger siblings. Today, she likes to tweak recipes by adding her own spices, or make up dishes from leftovers. "Something that my mom always did that I learned to do after I got married was go through the refrigerator and take out . . . all the odds and ends and try to make a recipe out of it. That's fun."

Emily Young, special to the Times

Signature Dish is published periodically in Taste. If you have a recipe that you would like featured or would like to nominate other home cooks and their dishes, please email the information to [email protected] with a name and daytime phone number. Include SIGNATURE DISH in the subject line. Nominations can be mailed to Taste, Tampa Bay Times, 490 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

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